Ask Brook

How do you keep flies floating?

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I’ve been fly fishing for about six years now and like most folks started keeping flies afloat with generous applications of gel floatant. I moved from Orvis’ brand to Gink and Aquel which I pretty much use interchangeably based upon what’s available at the fly shop when I run out. Gel is still the foundation of my floating system.

The key to gel-based floatants is not putting too much on the fly. Too much goop causes the hackle to bunch up and defeat the purpose of the floatant — to aid the hackle’s natural water defying magic with a boost of repellency. If the hackle is clumped it won’t have the right qualities to ride on the water’s meniscus. Also, too much floatant will cause a small “oil slick” to form around the fly which sure doesn’t look natural.

The method I use is to squirt a small amount on my forefinger, rub my forefinger and thumb together to warm and thin the gel and then apply sparingly to the fly. If you put too much on your finger to begin with you can either wipe it on your waders (for that cool, I’ve got waders stained from overuse look) or start with your leader (see below) and then grease up the fly when the amount is more manageable.

But floatant isn’t just for flies. I use floatant on my tippet and leaders as well. More often than not the thing that causes my flies to sink is not a sloppy cast that splats it on the water or the slow absorption of water over time, it’s the fly line and leader dragging the fly under at some point. So, I always give the tip of the fly line and the leader a quick wipe of floatant as well.

Once a fly is soggy — whether from a fish or from too much casting and drifting — I use a fairly common routine to get the fly back on top. First, if the fly has been in a fish’s mouth I cast off the slime. This is done with a few sloppy casts which splat the fly on the water (to douse it good) and then false cast the slime/water off.

Next, dry the fly manually — blow on it, then press it in your shirt/amadou/whatever. I use what is a small patch of fake amadou. It’s marketed  as Samadou. I’ve also seen small pieces of “shammy” cloth serve the same function.

Now the dry-to-the-touch fly can get the final piece of treatment which is a desiccant. There are two ways to apply it, either the shake method or the brush on method.

The shake method is used with products like Shimazaki or Top Ride whereby you drop your fly (still on the leader) into the bottle, secure the cap and shake. You then remove your fly and cast. This is the most popular method of using desiccant though I think the brush method is more effective.

The brush on method really isn’t brushing, it’s more like poking. I use Frog’s Fanny. You take the fly between your fingers and then with the other hand load up the brush with powder and poke it into the fly. This method works very well though it requires good dexterity and no wind. Otherwise, you’re just scattering your desiccant to the winds.

More info can be found over on Mid-current